Two Dalit children, who did not have a toilet at home, were allegedly beaten to death by two upper-caste men for defecating near a village panchayat building in Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri district on Wednesday. The incident took place around 6.30 am at Bhavkedhi, 25 km from the district headquarters. The village, according to locals, had been declared as Open Defecation Free (ODF) on 4 April 2018.
The two alleged assailants, Hakam Yadav and his brother Rameshwar Yadav, were arrested soon after the incident, police said.
Manoj Balmiki, a labourer whose youngest sister Roshani (12) and his only son Avinash (10) became victims of the horrific crime, alleged that the family faced discrimination in the village due to their caste. “We don’t have a toilet at home. The children went out to defecate in the morning. Rameshwar and Hakam, who were standing near their handpump, shouted at them for defecating on the road and rained blows of lathis (sticks) on their heads while the children were relieving themselves, killing them in seconds,” a tearful Balmiki told reporters. “I saw the accused fleeing. The duo were caught by people some distance away,” he said.
Balmiki alleged that he had had a spat with Rameshwar and Hakam two years ago when they accused him of hacking off a branch from their tree and hurled casteist slurs at him. “We have to wait for an hour to draw water from the hand-pump. The entire village discriminates against us,” he alleged.
Hakam and Rameshwar were arrested for the murder of the Dalit kids under the IPC and the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, said inspector R S Dhakad of Sirsod police station. Security was stepped up in the village following the incident of persecution of Dalit children, he added.
A police source said that after he was arrested, Hakam Yadav said he killed the Dalit children as God had commanded him in his dream to kill “demons”.
Roshani was Manoj Balmiki’s sister. “I raised her after my mother died five years ago,” he said. Avinash studied in Class 1 while Roshani studied in Class 3, he said. “All the people in the village have toilets at home, except us. We are five brothers living in a thatched hut,” he said.
“The panchayat had sanctioned a house with a toilet for me. But a family member of the accused was panchayat sarpanch, he scuttled the proposal,” Manoj alleged.
District collector Anugraha P said that aid of Rs 50,000 each will be given to the kin of the deceased, besides financial help under the SC-ST Act. Asked about the village being declared ODF last year, she said she will find out if it was true.